“Jim Shaw has the most amazing collection of cultural oddities that I have ever seen,” the artist Mike Kelley once said. He was referring to “The Hidden World,” Shaw’s collection of religious and didactic art, which, over the past 50 years, has come to comprise more than 1,000 objects, from Jehovah’s Witnesses comics to a set of James Bond tarot cards.
Now Shaw’s collection—something of an art project in its own right—is making its way to a museum’s reserves. The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (the MSU Broad, for short) revealed today that it has acquired “The Hidden World” in its entirety. The work was recently on view as part of the museum’s exhibition “Michigan Stories: Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw”; part of it was also shown in a 2014 Shaw survey at the New Museum in New York.
“The Hidden World” began when Shaw bought a book by Ernest L. Norman, the cofounder of the Unarius Academy of Science, and it has since come to encompass paraphernalia related to various religions, cults, and sects, including comics, posters, banners, and paintings. For Shaw, the collection has served as a bridge between high and low culture—between what is and is not traditionally regarded as art.
MSU Broad’s director, Marc-Olivier Wahler, who first showed “The Hidden World” as part of the exhibition “LOST (in L.A.)” at the Flax Foundation in Los Angeles 2013, said in a statement, “ ‘The Hidden World’ will live in Jim’s home state of Michigan and will be an endless resource for research and inspiration for our curators, students, and faculty.”